At the recently concluded 6th edition of the European Union (EU) and African Union (AU) Summit in Brussels, a Joint Vision for a renewed partnership between Europe and Africa was unveiled. The thematic pillars for the partnership include solidarity, security, peace and sustainability, as well as sustained economic development and prosperity for citizens and communities.

The Joint Vision is aimed at bringing together people, regions and organizations from both continents, thereby building a common future, as close partners and neighbors. This renewed Partnership also aims to be the driving force in promoting common priorities, shared values, international law, and preserving together common public goods such as:

  • the security and prosperity of citizens and communities;
  • the protection of human rights for all;
  • gender equality and women’s empowerment in all spheres of life;
  • respect for democratic principles, good governance and the rule of law.

Support for human rights must be universal

In light of the widespread violations of international law and human rights now being carried out by Vladimir Putin’s regime in its attack on Ukraine, this kind of intercontinental commitment to cooperation is even more significant. In the formal Summit communiqué, AU and EU leaders recognize the need to protect society from criminal networks and the illicit financial flows that fund them.

The Summit also agreed to enhance partnership for migration and mobility, adding that they will continue addressing all aspects of migration and mobility, in what the communiqué describes as “a spirit of joint responsibility and commitment, in full respect of international law and fundamental human rights.”

Just a few days after the summit, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced a massive exodus, sending hundreds of thousands across European borders. Reports of discriminatory treatment toward Ukraine refugees of African origin, by some border agents in countries receiving refugees, sparked suspicion across Africa that a new age of cooperation might be more talk than reality. 

  • The AU has called on Russia to respect international law and Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
  • AU Chair and President of the Republic of Senegal, Macky Sall, and the Chairperson of the AU Commission, Moussa Faki Mahamat, have expressed their worry over reports that African citizens on the Ukrainian side of the border are being refused the right to cross the border to safety. They maintained that all people have the right to cross international borders to reach safety during conflict, notwithstanding their nationality or racial identity.
  • They are therefore urging all countries to respect international law and show the same empathy and support to all people fleeing war notwithstanding their racial identity, noting that reports that Africans are singled out for unacceptable dissimilar treatment would be shockingly racist and in breach of international law.
  • The chairpersons have also commended the efforts by African Union Member State countries and their embassies in neighbouring countries to receive and support African citizens and their families trying to cross the border from Ukraine to safety.

The AU-EU Summit can be a foundation for solid and sustained cooperation toward health-building economies that improve conditions across Africa and consolidate Europe’s push to eliminate global heating pollution. Whether this is the case will depend on how fully specific EU commitments are followed through.

Acting as partners to implement inspired commitments

The EU’s Global Gateway Investment Package will commit more than 150 billion euros to Africa, to foster clean development, capacity building, and the institutional and physical infrastructure needed to make this vision of climate-smart cooperation a reality. The Investment Package will also help in creating a conducive and transparent policy environment for sustainable private investments, enhancing investments in support to agri-food and fish-processing, facilitating innovation and boosting improved nutrition and help build more diversified, inclusive, sustainable and resilient economies.

The Summit communiqué declares: 

“Our two continents aim to demonstrate and share with the rest of the world the success of an agenda of prosperity respectful of our people and our planet. This Global Gateway Investment Package aims to boost public and private investment building on existing initiatives and partnerships. The Package will boost large scale sustainable investments, supported by Team Europe Initiatives, with due consideration to the priorities and needs of the African countries.”

The communiqué added that Africa’s priority needs include: 

  • investment in energy, transport and digital infrastructure aligned with the PIDA PAP II;
  • energy transition that is fair, just and equitable, taking into account specific and diverse orientations of the African countries with regards to access to electricity;
  • green transition including supporting the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs).

The communiqué also recognized the need to “support industrialisation and the development of sustainable and resilient value and supply chains” and “the importance of food security and nutrition,” welcoming it as the AU Theme of the Year for 2022. The text was not specific about means of support for sustainable food systems, regenerative agriculture, or sustainable and diversified rural development. 

Meanwhile, genuine support and finance in the above-mentioned sectors will support ongoing sustainable development by: 

  • expanding opportunities for decent work;
  • fostering the development of transparent institutions;
  • securing against breakdown of civil society;
  • promoting human health, through better nutrition, reduced pollution, and better funded management of water and sanitation.

Climate resilient development must be a top AU-EU priority

The latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change finds that the window for climate resilient development is rapidly closing and that compounding climate impacts will lead to destabilization and hardship on an unprecedented scale. The report also found that Africa is particularly vulnerable, with food and water supplies threatened, vital ecosystems at risk, and proliferating threats to human health, if we fail to achieve climate resilient development.

The most efficient climate resilient development pathway is already closed off, due to past inaction and delay. The green path in the above chart visualizes the remaining opportunity for climate resilient development, aligned with no more than 1.5ºC of global heating and all of the Sustainable Development Goals.

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the report “atlas of human suffering and a damning indictment of failed climate leadership.” The report notes that 3.3 to 3.6 billion people, nearly half of all human beings, are living in danger zones and highly vulnerable. He called fossil fuels a “dead end for our planet, for humanity, and yes, for economies.”

The commitment to cooperative clean development must hold in AU-EU relations emerging from this Summit, including at the country-to-country level, and in private sector transactions. The support promised on the implementation of the Nationally Determined Contributions (NDCs) and National Adaptation Plans (NAPs) of African Countries under the Paris Agreement to enhance mitigation and adaptation can help to sustain this clean development focus.

That accelerated implementation of NDCs and NAPs cannot be achieved, however, without immediate climate finance. The EU and AU should identify early action climate finance now, and start incentivizing its flow into African markets. The allocation of climate finance, including in the early action stage, should be based on climate justice considerations and the cost benefit of reducing risk and building resilience as soon as possible.

An energy transition that is fair, just and equitable, taking into account specific and diverse orientations of the African countries, is the best and most investable way, today, to secure a future of clean development cooperation between Africa and Europe. Europe is leading progress on Paris Agreement Article 6.8 “non-market” activities, with the launch of the EU Green Deal and the world’s first major carbon border adjustment mechanism (CBAM). 

Such coordinated incentives for climate-smart development provide an opportunity for the two continents to jointly take the lead in carbon pricing. Both the EU and AU can accelerate progress on decarbonization by adopting people-centered climate incentive systems, like the carbon fee and dividend, which will make negotiated CBAM compliance far easier and more mutually beneficial.

Changing the landscape of possibility

The Summit demonstrates growing resolve to strengthen the relationship between the AU and EU. The Summit is premised on the need to ensure that African perspectives are given priority in the relationship between the two continents. This was clearly demonstrated in last month’s Summit in Brussels, even to the extent that some pundits are alleging that discussions focused mainly on Africa, leaving out matters relating to Europe’s internal issues that are important to Africa. 

Notably, the Summit also created a room for frank discussions and joint solutions as AU member states co-chaired seven roundtables in line with the themes of the summit. This is a radical departure from previous summits when African leaders mostly attended with ready-made speeches.

The agreement reached at the Summit will create a monitoring mechanism to improve transparency and track commitments is perhaps another milestone that will be crucial for Africa getting the most out of this cooperative planning. The monitoring mechanism is intended to enable the AU and EU college to periodically meet and review the implementation of all the commitments made at the Summit, to ensure accountability and transparency. 

In conclusion, the relationship between the European Union and the African Union should be based on equity. With a foundation of equity and appropriate finance, the benefit will be greater success in cooperative resilience-building and the attainment of both UN Agenda 2030 and AU Agenda 2063.

China, Russia, and the United States have all held Africa-focused summits and promised expanded cooperation and investment. With rising international interest in Africa, the people of Africa will be watching to see who is really working and investing in a truly cooperative manner, in line with international law, universal rights, and sustainable development priorities.

This Resilience Intel brief includes extensive reporting and analysis by David Michael Terungwa, Citizens’ Climate International Field Development Lead and Africa Coordinator, and the founder of the Global Initiative for Food Security and Ecosystem Preservation (GIFSEP).